Thursday, April 29, 2010
My father's spirit?
I don't know what to call it or what it was.
All I know is what I felt and what happened.
Tuesday was the anniversary of my father's death.
Monday night I went to sleep on the living room couch in my parent's home in Chicago. I had driven up there to supervise some electrical work which might seal the deal on the sale of their home.
I tossed and turned....I woke up a hundred times....knowing I had to do something....eventually sensing I had to go to my grandparent's cemetery to check something. But why?
After my parent's died, I wanted to visit the cemetery to take pictures of the gravestones and gather information because I plan to research my family history in the future. I knew I wouldn't be making frequent trips to Chicago after I sold my parent's house ,but I felt no urgency towards the visit....it was just something to be done ....until Monday night.
I awoke Tuesday morning....puffy eyed and tired but the sense....almost the physical sense of being pushed to go there....increased.
I planned to return a dress I bought online to a store and do a little shopping before the electrician arrived. I drove quite a distance to the store.....returned the item....but couldn't stay an extra minute....in that store. The sense, the urgency to go to the cemetery kept tugging at me.
I tried to be logical....I'm sure I feel this tug....because...it's the anniversary of my father's death.....and although he is not buried yet.....perhaps in my psyche I just needed to connect to my family....to my grandparents and some of the relatives. Surely this is why I'm feeling this push.
So I drove to the cemetery. It's been years since I've been there.. I went to the office to get lot information.
I pulled up the information for my grandparents, the burial site of the "babies", my grandmother's stillborn children, and then I pulled up Mike's burial information. The family rumor was that Mike was not only my grandparent's best friend but also my dad's true father.
I wanted to go Mike's grave site first....but I felt it was disrespectful....why visit "Uncle Mike's" grave first....who was not related to us...over my grandparents?
So I wandered through the cemetery and found them....my grandparents....the still born babies.
The sky was crystal blue and it was cold and windy but sunny. So windy I literally did feel pushed around.
While I walked around...trying to find their plots....I marveled at all the lavish, decorative monuments. I liked that in this cemetery (versus the cemetery my maternal ancestors are buried at) people could plant small bushes and plants next to the monuments. It made things green and messy...hostas...tulips... bushes...... all brushed...and covered...and swamped the stones...but it also made it feel personal.
The non-uniform plantings, the overgrown bushes, and the freedom given to families to choose ornate or simple or tall or stout monuments...made the cemetery feel comfortable...non-rigid...approachable. I found myself smiling....I liked the natural feel...I thought my father would like it here too.
But my plans were to bury both my mother and father in my mom's lot in the other cemetery....the one with the manicured lawns...and a thousand restrictions on what you could or could not place near the mandated flat marker stones. Besides...my parents had been married over 60 years...I couldn't separate them.
But I disliked how they treated my request to have my father buried with my mother.....even though it only means the cremation box to hold their ashes would be slightly larger.....they made me feel like my father was an alien. I had to get permission from my living relatives to "allow" my father's remains to be placed with my mother....as if somehow being her husband for 60 years wasn't enough. Technically, if a relative objected...they both could not be buried in the plot. The headstone would also have my father's name listed underneath instead of next to my mother's. The cemetery personel made me feel as if my father was some parasite that was being attached to my mom...instead of her devoted husband.
Because the cemetery personnel made me so uncomfortable.........because they were so annoyed at my questions....I couldn't face burying my parent's ashes yet. Something stopped me....I couldn't proceed with the arrangements....I didn't know why....but it felt wrong/disagreeable.
But I also felt guilty.....surely a year after their deaths I should make arrangements.....what was wrong with me?
I finally decided it was time to visit Uncle Mike's grave. I sensed he was what I was here for ....but part of me fought how illogical this thought was. Why would I feel pushed to visit Uncle Mike over my grandparents?
I saw his reddish colored granite monument in the distance. Walked to it and froze.
Mike and his brother were buried there....and there was a third empty space.
I started crying. I knew ....I knew ...somehow this was for my father....but how could it be?
No one ever mentioned this....my father....my mother...my mother's best friend who knew all our family business....no papers....no records ...no information...no directions/instructions from anyone.
I went back to the office ....I tried to control my sobs. How would I ask the secretary about the empty grave site ? Both Mike and his brother were bachelors.....they had no descendants in the Chicago area. Who was it for?
"My father died and he told me there was a plot for him next to Mike X."
"Names again please?"
"Yes, Mike indicated the plot is for his nephew, Peter."
I cried. My body shook. The secretary stuffed my hand with kleenex. I turned away from her.
I knew this was why I was here.
My father is not Mike's nephew.... my father is probably Mike's son.
You don't buy a plot for your nephew....especially if your nephew is married and most likely would make other arrangements to be next to his wife. My father could be buried in many places....Mike hoped he would be buried next to him.
I left the building and stood in the grass close to where I parked the car. I let the wind blow me around for a while. The icy blue sky and sun gave such a sense of clarity to the day....it made you feel there were no ifs and buts in the universe.... only yes and no.
I had found yes.
My body relaxed....peace wrapped around me.
Whatever it was that pushed me in my dreams ...that pushed me all day to come here....was now satisfied.
I had discovered what needed to be found.
I will bury my father's ashes next to Mike. Dad will not be an alien or parasite....he will take his place among the menfolks of Mike's family. My father will have his dignity. My father will have his place. Whether or not they are truly father and son...I may never know...and maybe they didn't know for sure either....but somehow they felt it might be
I will also blend my father's ashes with my mother and bury them together at the other cemetery.
My mother hated being alone....I will make sure they are together. My father and mother would have wanted that too.
My father moved from his childhood neighborhood to live with my mother's relatives when they married....so too now....the circle will be complete.....and he will be with them again.
But he will have his own spot too....and I will transplant some of the hostas he gave me... which are lush and thick in my yard to his monument....and I will plant daffodils...his favorite spring flower. He loved to garden...he loved his hostas.
Everything is in it's place now.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I feel like a voodoo doll...with 100 pins (aka known as life's problems) sticking me.
Pins for failing real estate deals, my son losing his health insurance, over budget on a project, and blah blah blah blah blah.
I was so desperate I surfed the web for articles on how to change your luck....oh people have systems and for a copy of their newsletter for 24.95....they tell you what it is.
I just need to pull a few pins out and I can handle all the rest...but I'm sporting a full load and soon I'm gonna spring a leak......
there she blows....lol....
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
"What the hell?"
I looked out the window.
Ozzie the Wonder Dog galloped into the bedroom obviously concerned.
Maybe something happened at a construction site down the road.
My son scanned the Internet and rushed in with an explanation.
The space shuttle had passed directly over us on the way to its landing site in Florida.
Very very cool.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Looks like the bid on my parent's house is falling through....second bid...second falling.
Will probably have to drive up to Chicago next weekend and take care of some minor repairs on the house....get someone to cut the grass.... someone to fix a window.
Just hate the thought of driving up north...and being in my parent's house again. Sleeping on the couch and having all those memories crowd me in the empty living room.
This week is the first anniversary of their deaths.
I had flashbacks of my mom's last hours....all weekend. The way her mouth was open and the particular way her jaw jutted forward as her breathing became labored.
My dad....I miss him.
I wish I could talk to him...tell him a few things.
How his DNA results came back just a day after his death and showed he has a strong Mongolian/Siberian background. Oh ....he would have found that fascinating.
How I solved the mystery of the basement leak. Here's my dad...wondering for years why there was a water problem there....and I found a spot under the outdoor rug.....where an unscrupulous worker ...didn't re-cement a work area after the cable was fixed.
And then there's my house still looking like a warehouse and me....not having the energy or desire to even peer inside those boxes.
"Change your thoughts and you change your world."
Yeah ...I'll try that tomorrow.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
I like the blurriness.....the edges shifty and not tidy. Sometimes when you read some one's book or listen to them speak for an hour...you think you know them or understand them....when in reality, you probably understand just a tiny fragment of the person standing in front of you with the rest in a blur. Hence Pico and I ....are truthfully and wonderfully blurred to each other.
I have loved many of Pico Iyer's essays. He's a travel writer and commentator and the author of several books. His language is beautiful, slow, thoughtful. His thoughts on "Why we travel" are so often quoted it's hard to believe they originated from a real person who uniquely formed the idea for the first time.
Here's a passage from his oft quoted essay:
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
I bought a gallon of milk today and I was thrilled.
I parked the car, walked into the store, walked to the dairy case plopped my gallon of milk into my shopping cart and headed for the check out lane.
Halfway through the store I felt a rush of euphoria. I had walked from the car....into the store....and was on my way out....walking.
After an entire month of couching after my foot surgery...sitting on the couch with my feet up ....I was walking again.
My steel pins were removed on Friday. A horrible adventure.
I knew the procedure was not going to be pleasant when the Doctor instructed me to close my eyes. I had a sock in my hand from my affected foot and placed it over my eyes like a blindfold.
"Don't worry you won't feel this."
The first pin slid out like butter.
The second pin.....was stuck.
I opened my eyes.....I almost fainted. The doctor was holding a huge stainless steel plyer in his hand and look flustered. He took a deep breath and attacked my second toe. It felt like he was trying to pull a 100 lb marlin out of it. Just went I started to feel woozy....a massive burning sensation engulfed my foot. "No problem....it's out."
No problem? My foot looked like it had been stung by a thousand bees.
So I couched all weekend.....and finally took my first step on Monday. Not bad...not bad....and today....Wednesday....I put on an old wide sandal.....and took my first stroll.
I was shocked how jello-like and wobbly my legs felt. I looked and swayed like the proverbial drunk sailor....except I was very sober.
My steps were tentative when I entered the store and I had to remind myself how to walk normally....because if you hobble around for a month....your body wants to continue to hobble even though there is no reason to continue walking that way.
So when I reached mid-store and I hit an almost normal gait....I was happy.....so very happy to feel and experience movement.
You probably took 5,000 steps today (the average steps a person takes in a day) but it seems you only appreciate that magnificent feat when you barely hit 50 a day.
How amazing to walk into a grocery store and buy a gallon of milk and then walk out.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
A golden pound cake baked in a lamb mold with a coat of coconut with jelly bean or M&M eyes.
The tradition is so ingrained....when one of the children can't make it home for Easter.....a pictures of the Easter lamb is dutifully forwarded to a far away computer just before the lamb is sliced.
This year....presented a challenge....not only is our daughter not here....but we're now a multi -faith family.
So what happened to the Easter lamb? He wore a yamaka to the table!
Friday, April 02, 2010
A return email arrived....yes we do.
Our community is having a food festival in May.....and I'm in charge of the kugel/blintz booth.
If you're not familiar with blintzes and kugel....let me describe these delicious little treats.
Blintzes are cousins to crepes. There's a thin crepe-like envelope which holds a stuffing of sweetened cottage cheese mixture. The little pouch is then fried and topped with sour cream or a fruit topping like strawberries or blueberries.
Kugel can be a noodle or potato dish. My Lithuanian grandmother made the potato version which consisted of shredded potatoes mixed with eggs and baked until the top was crispy. It was a stick-to-your-ribs type of side dish which accompanied sausage or brisket.
At my booth...we'll be featuring a noodle kugel, a classic Jewish dish.
Egg noodles and cheese are baked together till a beautiful crust forms. Sometimes kugels are served as dessert with the cheese mixture sweetened with sugar and raisins. The unsweetened version of kugel is often used as a creamy side dish.
For my booth.....busy folks have already cooked.... 100...dozen...blintzes and about 30 trays of kugel. My reputation of a non-cook is well-known so I only have to help bake about 30 more trays. I will probably googooo eye hub and look sweet....so I'll end up assisting versus preparing and actually baking the kugel.
After we knock off 30 more trays of kugel....I'll have to find some volunteer fryer-uppers and servers. I was told my booth is one of the busiest at the festival....so I have to make sure....there's plenty of folks plus visualize an efficient flow of distribution.....I don't want a single noodle or blintz left at the end....since all the money we raise goes to charity.
I'm thinking of getting my yet-to-be-gathered team some fun t-shirts....with some snappy slogans.....like "a blintz is cheese bling" or "kugel your way into some one's heart"....okay ...maybe I need a little work on my slogans yet. If you have any ideas for snappy....blintz or kugel sayings......please let me know.
As for myself....I was thinking of getting a t-shirt made with the simple incantations of my grandmothers....."Eat...Eat...Eat"